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ACT scores show CA seniors ready for college, at least to start

Vanessa Romo | August 20, 2014

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CA seniors ACT testsCalifornia high school seniors have a better shot at getting through the first year of college than students from most other states, according to ACT’s 2014 Condition of College and Career Readiness report, which was released today.

But many of them will still be entering a world of academic pain.

While students state-wide performed above the national average in English, reading, math and science, only 34 percent, a one point increase over last year, met all four benchmarks.

The ACT is a standardized test designed to measure how well students will perform in first-year college courses. The benchmarks indicate the minimum score needed to have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a “B” or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a “C” or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing course.

ACT research shows that students who meet those benchmarks are more likely to succeed in college and earn a degree than those who don’t.

Similar to the SAT, it’s one of several measures used by colleges and universities to compare applicants, though the weight placed on ACT scores varies from school to school.

The percentage of the state’s graduates who met ACT’s benchmarks in English and math declined by one point over last year, to 71 percent and 57 percent, respectively. The percentage of students meeting the reading threshold remains steady at 51 percent, while the number of students passing the science benchmark went up to 43 percent from 41 percent.

National statistics are far lower. By comparison, 64 percent met the benchmark in English, 44 percent in reading, 43 percent in math and 37 in science.

“It is heartening to see that today’s ACT report shows California’s graduating class of 2014 outperformed the nation in English, reading, math, and science,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction TomTorlakson, said in a statement. “More and more of our students are becoming better prepared for college-level coursework as we help ensure they gain the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in an ever-changing and challenging world.”

Broken down by ethnicity, California’s white and Asian students outperformed all others; 70 percent of white students met three or more benchmarks while 65 percent of Asians did the same. Only 41 percent of Pacific Islanders and 38 percent of American Indian students passed the standards while 26 percent of Hispanics, which were the largest group to take the test, did the same. African Americans came in at the bottom with 21 percent meeting the standard.

Twenty-nine percent — 113,732 — of California students in the Class of 2014 took the exam. The average ACT score in California was 22.3 out of a possible 36, compared with 21 nationally.

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